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Washington, D.C. Sights

Smithsonian National Zoological Park

  • 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW Map It
  • Upper Northwest
  • Zoo/Aquarium
  • Fodor's Choice

Updated 05/23/2014

Fodor's Review

The National Zoo has much to offer in addition to the pandas. Carved out of rolling, wooded hills in Rock Creek Park, it houses 2,000 animals, representing 400 species, in innovative compounds showing animals in their native settings. Step inside the Great Flight Cage to observe the flight of many species of birds; this walk-in aviary is open from May to October (the birds are moved indoors during the colder months). Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day you can catch the

orangutans traveling on the "O Line," a series of cables and towers near the Great Ape House that allows the primates to swing hand over hand about 35 feet over your head. One of the more unusual exhibits is Amazonia, an amazingly authentic reproduction of a South American rain-forest ecosystem. You feel as if you are deep inside a steamy jungle, with monkeys leaping overhead and noisy birds flying from branch to branch. Exciting new exhibits are always being added, such as the new Asia trail featuring sloth bears, fishing cats, red pandas, a Japanese giant salamander, clouded leopards, and other Asian species.

On the giant panda front, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang have been the zoo's most famous residents since 2000, and a new contract guarantees that they will stay in Washington until December 2015. In 2005 the pandas had their first cub, Tai Shan, who was moved to China in 2010. The new baby, Bao Bao, born in the late summer of 2013, is currently delighting visitors with her bamboo eating and lounging.

Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Zoo was created by an Act of Congress in 1889, and the 163-acre park was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed the U.S. Capitol grounds and New York's Central Park. Before the zoo opened in 1890, live animals used as taxidermists' models were kept on the Mall. Visit early in the morning or late afternoon for your best chance of seeing active animals. Many sleep at midday.

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Sight Information


3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20008, United States

Map It


202-673–4800; 202-673–4717

Sight Details:

  • Grounds: Apr.–Oct., daily 6 am–8 pm; Nov.–Mar., daily 6–6; zoo buildings open at 10

Updated 05/23/2014


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Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating

By cheryl

  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Jun 14, 2005

... but it's free

the zoo is a good place to go IF you have kids who insist on going to the zoo. if not, i'd bypass it. the best time to go is during one of the better seasons in washington - spring or fall. practically no lines to speak of. otherwise, be prepared for a tremendously hilly walk from the back of the zoo to the front in hot, hot, humid weather. they have cold water "misters" along the way for relief from the heat, and that's just about all you're gonna

get for free. i'm pulling for 1) shuttles from the back of the zoo to connecticut avenue for those who come in on public transportation, 2) cheaper liquid refreshments (NOBODY willingly pays those prices for a bottle of Dasani, come on zoo people!) to paraphrase what someone has already said, the panda exhibit ain't all that and will disappoint, especially if you've stood in a long line in hot weather to see them. the zoo is doing some renovations and expansions, so it's a very interesting place. you can tell that they're trying, in spite of the bad publicity lately. it's just that along the lines of customer service, they can, and should do better.

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By gabby

  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Apr 15, 2004

o.k. for free

Good zoo, it seems. The head curator should do something to eliminate the squirrel problem throughout the park, however. They eat the zoo animals' food, and we even witnessed some physically fighting with the cute prairie dogs. When we ran to tell one of the zoo workers, she was not at all concerned, and did nothing. We saw in the news that quite a few animals have died there very recently. So something is wrong. The panda exhibit is not worth


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By John

  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Feb 20, 2004

Good, but could have been better

A very large zoo and very crowded. A long walk from the subway stations. We got off at the Cleveland Park station, and after leaving the zoo we got on at Woodley Park because Connecticut Avenue is a very hilly street. There were very few places to eat lunch, and the food wasn't that good. You go there for the Pandas. The Pandas are good but so are many of the other animals.

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